Did mom and dad let you hunt woolly mammoths after you finished your homework? Didn’t you love tearing the raw mammoth meat from the bones and making fire by pounding flint-on-flint? We didn’t need no stinking cell phones or cable TV. We did it all with flint and raw muscle power. If you were weak, you were soon also dead. And that’s the way it going to be again really soon.
Hey, remember having to walk ten miles for a small piece of flint?
Those were the days, weren’t they? Kids today. They have it so easy!
Medical care? If you got too sick, they whacked you over the head with a mammoth bone and left you to rot. Kids, if you didn’t know, that was how the Republican party was born. Mammoths evolved into elephants and voilà! Our first political party!
Don’t forget to grab your flint before you leave the room today.
We went shooting yesterday. It was a warm July day, the kind of day I do not love. Not terribly hot, but so humid the air felt soupy. The insects were thicker than pollen and I could feel them bumping into my dress and my hair. We weren’t outside long. As soon as I felt one crawling down my collar, I called “uncle” and headed for the car.
I knew it would rain. The clouds were building. It was late in the day and they were piling up like thunderheads. We were home for maybe half an hour when the clouds opened and rain fell like a sheet. But hopefully, it will mean a better day tomorrow.
You have probably heard that phrase before. Oldies radio stations love to use it. They want you to think they are playing the soundtrack of our lives. You know what they mean. They want you to think that they are playing the songs you remember from when you were younger. That could mean a few years ago or a few decades ago, depending on who they are pitching their playlist at. What is the soundtrack of your life?
After you leave your twenties, your soundtrack is probably set with the most often played and most often heard music. We inevitably love the music of our teens and twenties. It is linked to those big moments that never leave our memory banks. They could be high school dances and proms. They could be college dances and parties. They probably include weddings and select family events. It certainly includes your record, tape, and/or CD collections. In future years our soundtracks will all be held in digital form in some cloud that you can download when you feel nostalgic.
It is certain that people from 16 years old to those who saw the beginning of the rock era can tell you the songs that meant the most to them, that held the greatest memories. I feel confident in saying that these songs will come from earlier years. This is not just because it holds true for me, but it does for many of my friends. This is reflected in the crowds that show up to concerts. In recent years I have seen Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Chicago, Reo Speedwagon as well as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett and Brian Wilson. These stars continue to fill concert venues across the country with people who may have seen them generations ago. The reason is not a mystery. They wrote and performed our soundtrack, and the people who connect with that music continue to go to see them.
Of course, I go to see current acts. I have also seen One Republic, Maroon 5, Hunter Hayes, Lifehouse, Bruno Mars as well as MAX Scheneider, fallout boy and a few others with more current hits. I like their music, but their songs do not hold the nostalgic connection I feel when I see Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli or Neil Diamond. When I saw The Monkees, minus the then recently departed Davy Jones, I heard screaming inside the Chicago Theater as I came through the door. It was as if the place was filled with teenagers and I rushed in to see what was the commotion. Mickey Dolenz was just starting Last Train to Clarksville and the AARP set were reacting as if it was 1966 and they were teenagers. Yes, there were younger people in the crowd. These songs were not on their soundtrack, however, but they were ours.
While leaving the Davy Jones songs to a couple of music videos from their 1960’s television show, The Monkees delighted a crowd with an evening of hits. The band’s recording of a Neal Diamond composition, I’m a Believer, was the last number 1 song of 1966 and the biggest selling song of 1967.
One thing the Rolling Stones do not lack after all these decades is energy. Maroon 5 may want to Move Like Jagger, but only Mick can do that, and he still does. Here I have taken a few moments from the show at the United Center. They were true rock stars of a previous era. They went on an hour late.
The opening of Moves Like Jagger is shaky as everyone jumped to their feet, so of course I had to also. The venue is The Woodlands. I should have known everyone in the crowd would try to move like Jagger too.
Without a doubt, the number 1 song on my soundtrack is Beginnings by Chicago. The 1969 song, written by band member Robert Lamm, failed to chart on its first go around. A rerelease in 1971 when the band was red-hot brought success to a song that was featured at dances, proms, graduations and weddings for many years to come. The album version ran 7 minutes and 55 seconds while the “radio version” ran about 3 minutes. In July 2010 I did not have a camera that could zoom in close or record in HD, but it got decent sound so I have this piece of nostalgia:
We are watching a show called “Shetland” which to no ones surprise, is set in the Shetland Islands. A cop show, but great scenery and an accent I can only sometimes follow. One of the characters is staring into a book. It’s “Finnegan’s Wake.” James Joyce. His daughter calls and he tells her he’s reading a book.
“What book?” she asks.
“Finnegan’s Wake,” he says.
“Dad,” she says. “No one reads Finnegan’s Wake. We all pretend we read it.”
Garry nods. I nod. This is a big one on the long list of books we say we read, but didn’t. Some of us are still lying about it. I never trust anyone who says they read Ulysses, much less Finnegan’s Wake. Liar, liar, pants on fire!
These books were part of a course. College, usually, but some were part of high school. We had to read them. It was compulsory. We couldn’t do it. We tried but got stuck a few pages in. If we couldn’t get the gist of it from “Classic Comics,” there were Cliff notes. The one for Ulysses was more than 300 pages long. That was the moment when I really missed Classic comics because they also had pictures. Some of my deepest reads were Classic Comics.
It begins in school when they give you lists of books to read over the summer. I was always a reader. Most of the time, I’d already finished the books on my list. The remaining few were not a big deal. Reading a book, no matter how thick, was rarely a problem for me. After all, I love books.
Literature courses inevitably included books that I would never read voluntarily and in some cases, at all. Maybe these were books that no one would voluntarily read. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that’s the entire point of literature courses — to force you to read books no one likes and possibly no one ever liked. How about Silas Marner? When was the last time someone read that because it sounded like a fun read?Despite current trendiness, Jane Austin was nobody’s favorite author in high school. I read it, but I didn’t have to like it. You may lob your stones this way. Pride and Prejudice was the only book I ever threw in a lake. These days, I feel guilty about the fish.
There, I’ve admitted it. I do not like Jane Austin. Not then, not now. Neither does Garry. We also don’t like the movies made from the books.
By the time I got to college, among the many books I did not read was James Joyce’s Ulysses. I followed it up by not reading Finnegan’s Wake. Not only didn’t I read it, I barely got through the Cliff Notes. But I got an A on the paper for my “unique understanding of the characters and motivation.” Good Cliff Notes, eh? I did read Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man and thought it wasn’t half bad. At least I could discern a plot and everyone in it wasn’t a prig — as they were in Austen’s novels.
I slogged my way through all of Dostoevsky’s books. Voluntarily, but I couldn’t tell you why. To prove I could? I was young and they were deep. The angst of the characters appealed to me. Teenagehood was angst-ridden. I read Les Miserables. The whole thing. In French. I think I even liked it. I also read Camus in French. I must have understood the language a lot better back then than I do today.
I read all 1800 pages of Romaine Rolland’s Jean Christophe because my mother loved the book. She also had me read Growth of the Soil, Knut Hamsun’s depressing tale of grinding poverty and despair in the Norwegian highlands. I barely made it through Madame Bovary.War and Peace was a non-starter.
I never made it through anything by Thomas Hardy. Or Lawrence Durrell. I loved Larry’s brother Gerald Durrell. He was hilarious and wrote about my favorite subjects, animals. I slogged my way through Lady Chatterley’s Lover only because everyone told me it was hot. I thought it was dull. My brother had some books stuffed under his bed that were a lot dirtier and more fun. And they had pictures.
I never owned up to not reading those important, literary masterpieces. When the subject came up — which it did when we were students and even for a few years after that — I would try to look intelligent. I’d grunt at the appropriate moments, nod appreciatively.
So yesterday, I was looking at a review I wrote about Dahlgren and realized I was lying about literature. Again. I hated the book. I didn’t merely dislike it. I found it boring and pretentious. It had no plot, no action, and as far as I could tell, no point. I mealy-mouthed around my real feelings because it’s a classic. Everyone says so.
So my question is, who really read it? Who loved it? Did everyone pretend because they heard it was a great book? How many people lie about reading great books when in fact, they never make it past the preface? Or the book flap?
I thought I had lost this picture and I suppose I did. I had it printed on canvas, but I gave that away as a gift — under the assumption I could easily find the original.
It was gone. I looked through every folder I could and it was gone. I have a photograph of the print I made, but no photograph, not even a “proofed” version. Except I forgot about Facebook. I was roaming through my photos on Facebook … and there it was. So I made a copy of the copy and it’s here. If I had the original, I could have fixed the detail and generally spiffed it up a bit, but I never expected to have this, so here is my lost photograph.
It is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a perfect “path in the woods” shot. I wish I had the original and a wish I’d used a better camera. Except at the time, this was the best — only — camera I owned.
And now, pictures from late this afternoon, down by the river.
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